Author Archives: dshpak


We've been hanging around Guelph. Nothing too exciting is going on, but today we visited ECHS, which is in a newly-renovated heritage building in Fergus. So of course I took pictures!

This was actually back in Hamilton yet.

These glasses have no lenses πŸ™‚

Old-fashioned blackboards suit the old building

This wall was the exterior of the old building. The old windows are now bulletin boards. On the left is the new addition.

The art room.

Hey dad, why are you crouched down?




Hamilton and Ancaster

We've been visiting the Tammingas in the Hamilton area, and I've had my camera out! Not a lot to write about, just a big stack of pictures…



On our way home

Not a whole lot has happened since my previous post but I have time to write now so I might as well get a bit caught up…

Sunday was sick day. I wasn’t feeling well, Dimitri and Xylia had caught whatever bug we had imported from St. Albert, and Ali wasn’t 100% either. So we slept in and stayed home and watched church online (only Kristen and Wyatt actually made it to church). The weather was nicer than the day before but nobody felt like doing anything with it!

Lunch and supper were simple: toast, soup, dry cereal, that sort of thing, since that’s all that people really felt like eating. All in all, a very quiet day. Kind of nice in a way because we could just sit back and visit, but of course it would have been nicer if everyone was healthy!

And this morning, we left! We hit the road a little after 11:00 and made it to Regina around 6:00. We stopped for a bit of shopping before getting to the condo for the night. We’ve had a great trip but we’re looking forward to getting home tomorrow!


I thought southern Alberta was supposed to be dry…

It's a wet, wet weekend in Alberta.

We made it to Coaldale on Thursday a little after supper. Eden did ok; she was a bit sick but not too bad. We hauled all our stuff inside (we want to repack for the trip home so we brought everything in), and after saying hi to the kids and visiting for a bit, we went to bed.

Friday, the kids had a day off school. I slept in until 10:00 or so, while Ali played with Eden and the other kids (I assume). I spent some time teaching the three oldest kids how to build a house of cards (or a “card castle”, as they termed it), and then we went to visit Aunt Erna and Uncle John for supper. We had a very nice visit with them and Tristan, and got home just in time for bed. We drove home in the dark and in the rain, so I had a hard time finding the turn into their driveway, but we made it!

I think there are six different decks of cards here.

Second cousins.

Reading the alphabet book.

This morning, we woke up to a cold rainy day. In fact, it rained all day, and the forecast is for rain tomorrow and Monday too. The kids were bored, not being able to run around outside, but Dimitri and Wyatt got some time outside after I suggested garbage-bag raincoats :). Unfortunately, Ali isn't feeling well, so she spent most of the day in bed. I made more card castles, played with Eden, read books to the kids, and generally took it easy. Later, I drove out to Lethbridge for a little shopping and to pick up pizza for supper β€” Dimitri came along for the ride, and restrained himself from eating a slice on the drive home!

As soon as I was up, this is what we were doing.


Playing shy?

Relaxing before bed.

And now it's dark outside and the rain is still coming steadily. Apparently if they get all the rain that's forecast, it'll be the most rain the area has had all summer…talk about timing!



I left off the last post in Lloydminster, so let's pick it up from there…

As I said before, Eden was getting fussy after around six hours in the car. Even after a 90-minute break she was crying, but was fine as soon as we picked her up. So we rearranged the car a bit, so that Ali could ride in the back, and Eden thought that was fantastic. That got us to Edmonton just after supper, where Eden met Jeremy and Jess…and their two girls, Juliana and Celeste, who were thrilled to see her.

Our trip to Edmonton was relatively slow-paced. Apart from just visiting (and playing board games), we sort of did one thing every day. Sunday was of course church, and then on Monday we visited the Muttart conservatory to look at the flowers. The current “feature” exhibit was a sculpture exhibit from Zimbabwe; you could buy the sculptures too, and I was rather tempted by a set of three small birds, but passed.

Sunday lunch on the deck

Sunday afternoon story time.

Under the Elephant Foot tree

Eden loved the fish.

We borrowed Jess's baby carrier to see how we liked it. We did!

Family selfie!

On Tuesday we went to West Edmonton Mall with Jess and the girls. The kids went for a ride on the train around the amusement park; the two youngest were free, and needed chaperones, so we ended up with five people on the train and only paid one admission! We didn't have any particular shopping in mind so we just wandered through whatever stores caught our eye. The girls wanted to visit the Disney store, and we bought a Minnie Mouse doll for Eden. Later on we watched the sea lion show (from a distance); Juliana and Celeste really wanted to see it, and we just got there in time. We had cinnamon buns from Cinnzeo (very very good), and walked through an African village exhibit that World Vision had set up (it was kind of neat but seemed to be missing something…perhaps a it would be better without kids, so you could do the audio tour). Then Jess took her girls home, and we did a little more shopping and stayed for supper at Jungle Jim's.

All aboard!

Princesses in the Disney store

Yes I DO like this Minnie Mouse, I think we should buy it!

Learning about high-fives

Watching the sea lions from the cheap seats

Supper was slow…slow getting seated, slow getting our orders taken, slow getting our food, slow getting the bill, slow paying the bill… Turned out that the restaurant was running short-handed; one person wasn't working that day, one didn't show up, and one quit, so the two remaining staff were handling the work of five! That wouldn't have mattered much except that Eden was bored of sitting in her chair, and we had made plans to take everyone out for ice cream, and we needed to get back to St. Albert in time to do that before the kids went to bed! But we got to the Dairy Queen at exactly the same time as they did, and Juliana (who had insisted on changing into her new “Frozen” hoodie for her frozen treat) had an ice cream cone as big as her head (that may have been a bit my fault for suggesting the chocolate waffle cone). She ate most of it and took the rest home for the freezer (and later admitted she had a small tummy ache).

A portrait of ambition.

Ice cream for everyone!

These kids are a handful in more ways than one.

Wednesday was our quiet day. We went for a walk through the nearby woods and to the park with Jess and the girls (Eden had about a 90-minute nap in her stroller), and in the evening we went to visit Nathan and Tracy, so there were more kids for Eden to play with!

A walk in the park.

Sometimes I have to try to get fancy.

Do you want to go for a ride?, he asked. No was not an acceptable answer.

Someone β€” I'm not saying who β€” was getting a little jealous.

These kids loved Eden but wished she knew how to play better.

And now it's Thursday, and we're driving to Coaldale. As I write this, we're just driving through Red Deer β€” don't worry, Ali's driving β€” and I'll post it wherever I get wifi! Unfortunately, Eden's been sick today…she started throwing up while napping back at the house this morning, and hasn't really kept anything down since. We think she might have a bit of a cold or something, but we really don't know. We were told that Fifth Disease is going around in St. Albert too, so I guess that's a possibility. Hopefully she gets better fast!

One last picture together!


All around Saskatchewan!

Oh man, I'm like five days behind on this. I'll keep this short with lots of pictures, and I'm only going to cover Saskatchewan in this post, I think.

So, Thursday, we packed up the condo and left Regina. We drove through Wadena but didn't stop; we were going straight to Kelvington. We arrived at Aunt Leona's house to find her sitting on the front step! She greeted us with smiles and hugs and welcomed Ali and Eden to the family (or “the club”, as she put it). Turns out she had forgotten we were coming that day and was just outside doing some gardening!

Meeting great-great-aunt Leona

We went inside for a bit of a chat, and Aunt Leona promptly got down on her hands and knees to play with Eden! She assured us that she could get up no problem, because she exercises every day, and then demonstrated that she could touch her toes!

I had to act fast to get this picture!

After she got herself ready to go out, we got gas, went for supper in Archerwill, ate, and drove back, with Aunt Leona giving us directions and talking up a storm the entire time. We learned that she didn't think I was “the marrying type” but always thought I was good-looking; that she thinks Pamela maybe looks like grandma (she wasn't sure about that though); that she remembers us being out for a party (their anniversary?) and Lisa announced “I'm hungry!”; and a million other things besides, including which farm belongs to Wendell Clark's dad, and that Wendell ruined his life with too much fighting. All told we had a very enjoyable visit with her and it was clear that she was happy we came out to visit.

Driving Mrs. Ladubec!

We made it to Wadena around 9:00, and since we had told Aunt Joyce 8:30, she was getting worried…but she didn't have my phone number so she couldn't call! We had tea and baking and a bit of a chat; Eden was too tired to be friendly though. It had been a busy day and we were happy to get to bed (we picked the downstairs bedroom; Uncle Eddie watched me set up the pack-and-play and thought it was pretty nifty).

In the morning, Eden and I got up and Ali slept in, and Aunt Joyce and Uncle Eddie played with Eden. They loved her and she had fun with them. Eventually Ali got up and Aunt Joyce could serve the breakfast she had planned for us. Afterwards I spent some time showing Uncle Eddie some of the old family pictures that I have on my iPad, and then we went out for a drive!

Meeting her great-aunt Joyce...

...and her great-uncle Eddie...

...and the family dog!

On our drive, our first stop was Kelvingrove cemetery (where grandma, grandpa, and Uncle Clarence are buried), and then we went to Uncle Eddie's old farm. His first tractor is still in a field there β€” he bought it when he was 16 with 10,000 feet of lumber. We also drove past the farms where grandma and grandpa grew up.

Getting in trouble before the drive.

Kelvingrove cemetery has carefully-trimmed trees.

Uncle Eddie's old tractor. I took a lot of pictures of it.

Impromptu mushroom-picking lessons

Then we drove to Grandpa's old homestead, where my dad and the rest of his family lived. The house is collapsing but still there. We hiked across the field for a visit, even though there were a lot of mosquitoes, and we got our legs scratched up. I found a doorknob in the house's door that I pointed out to Ali; of course, she wants it now as a souvenir and for decoration, but we couldn't get it safely.

In the field in front of the old house (it's hidden in the trees)

The house has seen better days.

It looks a bit better from the other side.

The inside doesn't look safe.

The next stop was High Tor church and cemetery, where my great-grandparents (my dad's mom's parents) are buried, along with their daughter Catherine (my great-aunt). Uncle Eddie's brother is buried there as well, so relatives of mine make up a significant percentage of the very small cemetery (I didn't count but I'd guess about 20 headstones).

High Tor Sacred Heart cemetery

We stopped for lunch there, but ended up eating in the van because there were an incredible number of mosquitoes! Then Uncle Eddie put flowers on the graves, and we went and checked out the church. It was unlocked, so we went inside to explore a bit. It's a tiny church that recently had some repairs done; it's in better shape than it was the last time I visited.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church. The domes, towers, and roof have been restored recently.

Inside the church. The pews do not look comfortable!

We kept driving, with Uncle Eddie pointing out where their old church was, where old dance halls were, which farms are owned by which people and how big they are, where post offices and towns used to be, where old roads ran, what routes people took to get places… He had a constant stream of stories and information, and I kind of wish I had a recorder or something to capture it because there's no way I'll remember it all. Every road or corner or place triggered a different memory, it seems…this is where Uncle Orville lost part of his thumb when his mom slammed the car door on it, this is where someone got stuck, this is where he was biking downhill at night as a kid and ran into a herd of cows that were crossing the road…it didn't stop!

Eventually we made it to Porcupine Plain, where grandpa lived after he retired, and we stopped for ice cream, and then we drove to Archerwill for supper. Yes, the same restaurant we'd been to the night before with Aunt Leona…but apparently there aren't really any other decent places to eat around, and it's a very good restaurant so we didn't mind!

Ukrainian stop sign in Porcupine Plain. I'm pretty sure I know what it says...

At the Archerwill General Store

Supper time

Playing games with 'grandpa' and 'grandma'

Finally we drove out to Rose Valley, to visit Uncle Bill's and Aunt Elsie's graves at the cemetery there, and drive past their old house (which I definitely recognized). Then one last stop at Wadena to visit Robbie and Rachel's graves, and back “home” for the evening.

As a kid, I loved this grain elevator.

The next morning we got on the road just before 9:00 for the longest drive of our trip: Wadena to Edmonton. We stopped a couple of times (in Humboldt for gas and the Farmer's Market; in Saskatoon for lunch), just outside Lloydminster for gas again (I was hoping to make Lloydminster but the car had different ideas)…and right around Lloydminster Eden decided that she had had enough of this whole “riding in the car” thing, and we took about a 90 minute break for a walk around town and a little bit of shopping. The last thing we did was stop at Safeway for a snack, and ended up buying the best donuts I've ever eaten…we got there just as freshly-baked trays were being put out, and they were amazing.

And, since Lloydminster is right on the Alberta border, I'll end the post there!

In Lloydminster there are trees MADE OF YARN!


A quick update

Just a quick note from my phone to say we had a fun visit with Aunt Leona last night, and a very nice day with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Eddie today, driving all round the family sites and chatting over tea and coffee and staying up later than we intended! πŸ™‚

I’ll try to write something more substantial later… Tomorrow we hope to be on the road around 8:00 AM to arrive in St. Albert for supper!

Relaxing in Regina

Yesterday was our first “real” full day of vacation. So we slept in until 10:30…hahaha no, we have Eden along, who am I kidding? We got up pretty much at the normal time, but took things slow. Eden had a bath in the giant tub (well, in a Rubbermaid container, in the giant tub), and we went to the farmer's market, which conveniently operates Wednesday mornings less than a block from our condo!

Why don't we use the WHOLE tub?

We walked around, bought corn and potatoes for supper, had lunch from a food truck, picked up some fruit, and I took my camera out at last.

At the market


The grass is delicious.

Then we went shopping…to a thrift store (among other things, I found Tintin and Choose Your Own Adventure books!), and a used book store that I saw earlier (bought nothing; after the thrift store it seemed so expensive!), and a paper store (which Ali and I wanted to buy most of, but we restrained ourselves). Then it was back home for supper (the corn was fantastic), and then it was Eden's bedtime.

Yep, the corn's fresh.

Eden disagreed, though, so we went for a walk…through the mall. In the middle of the mall there's an old stone faΓ§ade from the Canadian Bank of Commerce. For no particular reason I went and read the plaque on it, and learned that it came from Winnipeg! Apparently it was originally on a bank in Winnipeg and then they moved the whole thing to Regina to put on a bank there. Seems like a lot of work, but I guess it's cheaper than making a new one?

All the way from Winnipeg.

We started cleaning the condo and packing our bags last night, because we're leaving today. This morning we went out for breakfast to a place that a coworker recommended: “Fresh & Sweet”. Apparently it's been on the Food Network, on “You Gotta Eat Here”. It was within walking distance, but it turns out that their big breakfast menu with features like the Caramel Apple Pie Waffle is only available on weekends. Oh well. It was pretty good anyway β€” the toasted cinnamon bun is worth a repeat visit sometime.

The stuffed dog is not actually a family member.

Fresh & Sweet. It got a lot busier while we were there.

This is where the farmer's market was yesterday.

And now we're getting ready to pack up and drive out to Kelvington and Wadena. I probably won't blog at all while we're there…maybe a really short post or two from my phone, but I'm not going to have wifi for my laptop or iPad. We hope to be in Edmonton on Saturday evening, and I'll have Internet access again then!

Scarth Street, where we've been living.

Our condo is the third floor of The Northern Bank.


A slow start to a vacation

We're in Regina!

Actually we've been here since Saturday, but it's only really now that I feel like I can say we're on vacation. See, it's sort of a drawn-out affair. Saturday was my almost-annual trip to Regina for a Riders game. We (that's me, Ali, and Eden) drove out Saturday morning, about 45 minutes ahead of my parents, Heather, and Pamela. After driving through a LOT of rain (at its worst, we only had about 300-400 meters of visibility) we met up in Moosomin for lunch at The Red Barn, and continued on to Regina just behind them (long story involving a new waitress who couldn't figure out how to separate and combine bills properly). All told we had rain from just outside Winnipeg until just outside Regina…except for in Moosomin.

Come on, let's get going!

(Yes, that's a phone photo. I've hardly had my camera out yet. That will change.)

But when we got to Regina, the rain was gone. And Eden was a great traveler, sleeping most of the way and really only being fussy when she was hungry. Good thing too, because with the rain we didn't really have a lot of options for getting out of the car with her.

I had managed to book the company condo for a few days β€” the company has a Regina office, and owns a condo for people to use while visiting β€” so we headed into central Regina to find it, on a nice pedestrian street in the heart of downtown. We headed up the elevator and were very surprised to find the elevator opening not into a hallway, but straight into a living room! I looked around a bit to convince myself that this was the right place, and then left Ali and Eden and headed back down.

See, I had the condo booked, but due to a miscommunication, I didn't have the condo garage booked. And the closest parking spot I could find was about three blocks away. And we needed just about all our luggage. And the game was starting in about an hour. And Ali couldn't help me unload, because someone had to watch Eden. So I made five or six rushed trips to the car (which was parked in a giant puddle) and hauled all our stuff upstairs (Ali says it was only about four trips but it felt like more to me!), and then we drove to the hotel where everyone else was, so that we could drive back to where the game was…and get to our seats just as the game was starting.

Oh, and it was about 10Β° C and windy, and I had forgotten my hoodie. But even if I was cold, and even if the Riders lost, it was fun, like football games in Regina always are.

A selfie with my sisters

Afterwards we all visited for a bit at mom and dad's hotel, and then Ali and I parked our car in the parkade of a downtown shopping mall (free parking on weekends!) and walked back to the condo to bed.

The condo is the best hotel I've ever stayed in, I think. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big kitchen, a jet tub, and about the same square footage as my house. We feel pretty spoiled at being able to stay here. Eden has a ton of space to crawl around in, and since nobody lives here full-time there's not even a lot of stuff for her to pull off of tables or anything.

Our temporary home

So we set up the pack and play in the master bedroom (king-sized bed!) and went to sleep, having more or less settled in.

The days since have been simpler. Sunday we slept in (church is at 11:00 here!), went to church, had the others at the condo for lunch, said goodbye, and…relaxed! We went for a walk, I think, but mostly just hung out. I put on that night's football game on the projection TV, and we didn't do anything much.

Just hanging out

Monday and Tuesday (today) I actually worked. The office is walking distance from the condo, and officially I haven't been on vacation yet! This is partly why I got the condo…I'm combining a business trip with a personal trip. (Don't worry, I'm not cheating anyone, this is all above board!) So I took my laptop to the office, had meetings with some of the Regina people, gave a presentation, and did other boring work things, while Ali and Eden explored, on foot and by car.

Heading out for a day of exploring!

Why sit when you can stand?

But now…now I am officially on vacation! Today was my last day of work before my actual vacation time, and I'm looking forward to it!



Wrapping things up

Day 24: Winnipeg, MB. 6,660.4 km.

I guess I can't end this story in Fergus Falls, can I?

Morning started with a quite acceptable breakfast in the hotel, and then I re-packed the car in the frigid cold…it was definitely below -20Β°C; closer to -25, I think. But I had made a bit of a mess of things while unpacking the previous night, and the extra bags from our shopping in Albertville had clogged the rear window, so I spent a little while rearranging things and then bringing everything from the hotel room to the car.


The car, I should mention, was very reluctant to start. But, start it did, and off we went in the general direction of home…with a few stops on the way.

We stopped in Fargo, to visit Kohl's, Target, and JCPenney. We didn't buy anything at any of them, but the JCPenney turned out to be attached to a very nice mall that we wandered around, and ended up picking some stuff up at The Gap. Then it was a quick lunch at the food court, and out onto the I-29 north to Winnipeg.

West Acres Mall in Fargo

Unfortunately, while we were shopping, it got snowy, and there was a lot of blowing snow on the road, combined with less-than-ideal visibility. But traffic was light, and we made decent progress, with the worst problems (again) being caused by snow plows plowing the shoulder. One of them was kicking up so much snow that I couldn't see the road in front of my car, and didn't know if I was going straight, veering left (towards the snowplow), or veering right (towards the guardrail and dropoff on the side of the bridge)! I actually came to a complete stop briefly, and when the snow cleared I had two wheels over the dotted line! We passed that plow safely, as well as another one a little while later.

Then, after two quick stops (gas in Grand Forks; duty-free in Pembina), we were home! A weird feeling, after so long away, but it's nice to be back.

And that's it: over three weeks on the road, over six thousand kilometers driven, and ten different cities slept in. We've had a lot to be thankful for: we visited lots of relatives and friends, had some great experiences, and were safe and healthy the whole time. It was a great trip β€” the longest either of us have ever been on β€” and we don't know when (or if) we'll have the chance to take another one like it.

Thanks for reading along with us; I hope you enjoyed it!